Stigma deters adolescents and young women with HIV from accessing contraceptives

Thursday September 15 2016

The launch of position paper in Nairobi on Wednesday by Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS on the challenges adolescent and young women with HIV face. They are asking the government to protect their right to health. PHOTO | EUNICE KILONZO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The launch of position paper in Nairobi on Wednesday by Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS on the challenges adolescent and young women with HIV face. They are asking the government to protect their right to health. PHOTO | EUNICE KILONZO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By EUNICE KILONZO
More by this Author

Adolescent girls and young women infected with HIV infections face stigma and discrimination when they seek reproductive health services such as family planning.

A group of adolescent girls and young women living with HIV under the auspices of a group called Sauti Skika say due to this unmet need for family planning, it makes them more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies and at risk of reinfections.

The HIV prevalence among youth aged 15 years is similar for both boys and girls, but almost four times higher in women by the age of 24.

Adolescent girls and boys are reported to have their first sexual experience by the age of 15, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), and this includes young people with HIV infections.

Further, 11 per cent of women age 15 to 19 are currently married, as compared with just one per cent of men.

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Sauti Skika say they have drawn up a position paper challenges adolescent girls and young women with HIV face and are asking the government to protect their right to health.

“This is made worse when people judge me when I seek for family planning services. Some providers feel I should not be engaging in sex because of my status,” said a young woman living with HIV, who only identified herself as Mary, at the launch of the paper Wednesday.

The paper was launched through the support of the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV/Aids in Kenya (Nephak).

In attendance were more than 100 young people living with HIV aged 18 to 24 years from seven counties in Kenya.

COPING WITH CHANGES

The policy paper further notes that adolescent girls living with HIV not only experience difficulty in coping with changes during puberty but also the additional burden that HIV stigma on them.

“Girls are either embarrassed about the body changes or nervous if they are late developers wondering whether there is an association with their status. This often results in of low self-esteem and depression,” it reads in part.
Nephak Executive Director Nelson Otwoma said the paper “will be helpful in providing the baseline for the elimination of Sexual Reproductive Health barriers.”

Another challenge faced by the young women is the unauthorised disclosure of their status in learning institutions which enhances HIV stigma resulting in poor performance, absenteeism, transfers and school drop outs, according to Dr Wamae Maranga, Country Director AHF Kenya.